NCAA Tournament Bracket: Trendiest Upset Picks in First Round of March Madness

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIMarch 12, 2012

NCAA Tournament Bracket: Trendiest Upset Picks in First Round of March Madness

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    The 2012 NCAA Bracket is filled with potential first round upsets, but these are the most popular ones. March Madness is special largely because of its potential upsets, and these teams will have the best chance to knock out higher seeded opponents.

    The Big Dance starts tomorrow with the First Four, but since I don't consider a "round" that has 60 teams getting a bye a true round in the tournament, these upsets are the most popular in the Round of 64.

    Teams like VCU and UConn that had success last year are looking to upset their higher-seeded opponents, while teams that have had early exits like Louisville and Georgetown look to avoid another one.

    Here are the trendiest of the 32 possible upsets.

Connecticut over Iowa State

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    After winning the 2011 NCAA tournament, the Huskies of Connecticut find themselves as the No. 9 seed in the South.

    The Huskies will be playing Royce White and Iowa State, but have a great chance of pulling off the minor upset.

    The Cyclones are completely centered around Royce White, but putting Andre Drummond or Alex Oriakhi on White will minimize his impact on the game.

    The Huskies can then focus on utilizing weapons like Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, as Iowa State's guards cannot hang with those of UConn.

    It doesn't hurt that the Huskies did so well last year, giving them plenty of experience in the Big Dance. Now they look to upset Iowa State before setting their sights on No. 1 overall seed Kentucky.

Alabama over Creighton

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    The Alabama Crimson Tide have been given a No. 9 seed in the Big Dance, and are looking to knock off No. 8 Creighton, who has been pegged as one of this year's possible Cinderella stories.

    The Tide should have no problem with the Bluejays, however, as their team in focused on forward Doug McDermott.

    McDermott is the nation's third-leading scorer at 23.2 points per game, but McDermott has not faced many opponents like JaMychal Green, who will be guarding him in this game. McDermott's only comparable defender was Garrett Stutz of Wichita State, who held the 6'7" power forward to 12 and 13 points in their two games respectively.

    Once McDermott's impact is reduced, this Creighton team is not nearly as intimidating.

    If the Bluejays have to rely on their guards they are in trouble. Grant Gibbs is mainly a point guard, as he is not a very big scoring threat. While he can make shots Alabama can stick one of their longer, quicker guards on him to take him out of the game.

    The same philosophy holds true for Antoine Young, the team's second-leading scorer, who is only 6'0". Alabama can put Trevor Lacey, Trevor Releford or Levi Randolph on Young to take him out of the equation.

    Alabama should have no problems eliminating Creighton. Roll Tide.

Xavier over Notre Dame

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    Xavier got lucky when they were given No. 7 Notre Dame for a first round opponent. The Irish have lost big man Tim Abromaitis for the season, which leaves them a much weaker team than the one who knocked off five Top 25 teams in conference play this year.

    The Irish will be led by big man Jack Cooper and point guard Jerian Grant.

    Grant will be taken out of the equation by a combination of good defense and an offensive explosion from Xavier's Tu Holloway, who is the best scoring point guard in the country. Cooper, on the other hand, will have his hands full with seven-footer Kenny Frease and potentially Andre Walker.

    The X-factor in this game will be Mark Lyons, who is Holloway's running mate in the backcourt for Xavier. He averages 15.5 points per game, and should give Xavier an edge in this matchup.

    While this upset isn't a sure thing like the other two seem to be, there is a good possibility that the Irish will be sent packing in the first round.

West Virginia over Gonzaga

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    West Virginia is a trendy pick over No. 7 Gonzaga for good reasons.

    First off, the Zags don't have anyone in their back court who can hang with West Virginia's Kevin Jones. While the Bulldogs have seven-footer Robert Sacre, he is not even the team's best rebounder, trailing 6'7" Elias Harris by 2.4 rebounds per game (6.3 per game to Harris' 8.7).

    These two guys won't be able to stop Kevin Jones, who is a double-double machine, averaging 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. He is fourth in the nation in rebounding, and second among big men in scoring (trailing only 6'7" Doug McDermott).

    Jones is an unstoppable force, but most teams can limit the damage. With the way to Bulldogs look, he could go for 30 points and 20 rebounds while dominating the paint.

    Secondly, the Bulldogs do not shoot the three well, shooting only 37.6 percent from behind the arc. Their best three-point-shooter is freshman Gary Bell Jr., who makes only 1.5 threes per game.

    If Gonzaga is going to be dominated inside they will have to shoot the three to win. It is unlikely that they will be able to avoid an upset unless they have one of their best three-point-shooting games of the season.

North Carolina State over San Diego State

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    The North Carolina State Wolfpack comes into the Big Dance hot, knocking off Virginia and losing to North Carolina on a few questionable calls in the ACC tournament.

    The Wolfpack have come close to beating some of the best teams in the country, and they know that they can hang with anyone. They will not fear No. 6 San Diego State in the first round, and they stand a great chance of pulling off the upset.

    Sophomore C.J. Leslie leads this team, and he will be the best player on the floor in their game against the Aztecs. While Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley should not be taken lightly, Leslie is better than both of them, and Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown will help the 'Pack beat the Aztecs.

    The Wolfpack has five players averaging double-digit points per game, and all five can have a big game on any given night. The Aztecs cannot shut down all five players, and they will probably end up having two or three burn them in their game.

    North Carolina State is hot enough to continue their success against San Diego State. I have the Wolfpack upsetting San Diego State and Georgetown en route to the Sweet Sixteen in my bracket. That's how good this team is.

Texas over Cincinnati

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    While I personally disagree with this upset, I understand why people are picking Texas over Cincinnati.

    The Longhorns are a dangerous team, led by J'Covan Brown, who averages over 20 points per game. Brown can be counted on to take over in big games, and he is consistently impressing audiences.

    However, the X-factor for this team is freshman point guard Myck Kabongo. He averages 5.8 assists per game to go along with 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds. Kabongo is a very inconsistent player, but if he plays well the Longhorns can certainly beat the Bearcats.

    If Texas can stop Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick they could very easily upset Cincinnati, but that is much easier said than done.

    Apparently fans believe in the Longhorns, however, as this is one of the most popular upsets in the first round.

Long Beach State over New Mexico

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    After pulling off an upset over Pittsburgh (who was ranked No. 11 in the country at the time) and Xavier (who was ranked No. 15 in the country at the time) in the beginning of the season, Long Beach State was pegged as a Cinderella team.

    The 49ers stack their schedule with difficult games, including those against Pittsburgh, Xavier, Louisville, Kansas State, North Carolina and Kansas. That has prepared them for the Big Dance, which is why they are a popular pick over No. 5 New Mexico.

    We all love to pick No. 12 seeds over No. 5 seeds, and because New Mexico is not one of the most publicized teams in the country, we have them falling to a team that we have expected to make a run in the tournament since November.

    Casper Ware, Larry Anderson and double-double machine T.J. Robinson will be key for this team, as they have the power to take over against the Lobos.

    But don't be so quick to completely write off the Lobos. Most people have heard more about Long Beach State than New Mexico, but the team is actually pretty good.

    Make sure to do some research on this game, as it's one of the toughest to pick in the first round.

California/South Florida over Temple

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    VCU showed us last season not to write off teams that play in the First Four, and either California or South Florida over No. 5 Temple is a popular pick for an upset this season.

    Temple is an inconsistent team that has good wins over Duke and Xavier, but also has a bad loss to Bowling Green.

    I think that the magic of VCU's run is still in the air, since neither California or South Florida have fared well against Top 25 opponents this season, and Temple is on the fringe of being ranked.

    However, this is one of the most popular upsets of a No. 12 seed over a No. 5 seed this year.

VCU over Wichita State

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    Speaking of what VCU's magical run has done to us, picking No. 12 VCU over No. 5 Wichita State is one of the most popular upsets in the entire bracket this year.

    Most people don't know much about the Shockers of Wichita State, but they are a good team led by big man Garrett Stutz.

    The Rams of VCU will need big man Juvonte Reddic to step up on Stutz and try to limit the damage.

    The team will then needs guards like Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels to score the majority of their points in the game.

    The Rams are going to have their hands full with the Shockers' inside-outside combination of Stutz and Joe Ragland, but they definitely have the coaching and experience needed for another upset.

New Mexico State over Indiana

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    New Mexico State is an underrated team that is led by double-double player Wendell McKines, who averages 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

    The Aggies are sixth in the nation in rebounding and 11th in scoring. This team has been dominant because of the inside presence of McKines, coupled with guard Christian Kabongo's stellar play. The two combine for 33.4 points per game.

    While Indiana is a great team with the potential to succeed, freshman Cody Zeller will have his hands full with McKines, and the team could go down early.

    The Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament, which had many people questioning them. However, the Aggies are winners of four straight, and nine of their last 10 games.

    New Mexico State is hot, which has people eliminating Indiana in the first round. This is going to be a great game for sure, and an upset wouldn't be shocking.

Belmont over Georgetown

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    Georgetown has not had much success in the last two tournament, suffering back-to-back first round upsets, losing to Ohio and VCU.

    The Hoyas now face No. 13 Belmont in the first round, and the Bruins are hot. Belmont has won no less than 14 straight games coming into the tournament, with an average margin of victory of almost 18 points per game.

    Belmont is one of the hottest teams in the country on the back of their four players who average more than 10 points per game: Kerron Johnson, Ian Clark, Drew Hanlen and Scott Saunders.

    Johnson and Saunders make up a dangerous combination, with Johnson being the team's best guard, and Saunders giving them an inside presence.

    While it will take a great game to knock off Jason Clark, Henry Sims, and the Georgetown Hoyas, Belmont has that potential to do so.


    For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here